Newsletter 1 – 2015

Dear Donors, Mentors, Volunteers, Helpful People and Interested-Parties-who-wanted-to-be-kept-in-the-loop

This is Urjayati’s first ‘official update’ to all of you – but we will keep it friendly and informal with lot of emoticons thrown in 🙂

What started out as a project in September 2015 by three Gandhi Fellows (Google, if you don’t already know about our Fellowship!) is now on its way to being registered as an NGO. We are aware of the negative connotations attached to the N-word, and for the longest time we were debating whether or not to register at all. But we assure you that our value systems are intact and the main reason we are registering is to ensure sustainability of this initiative.

The long and short of it is that Urjayati is a funding-and-mentoring initiative to help children and young adults to get an education by removing any financial or motivational impediment that gets in the way.

And we could not have done whatever little we have done so far without the support we have been receiving from all of you.

From the time we went live in the end of November 2015, we have 10 kids under our wings, over 40 donors who have helped us to send them back to school, 7 mentors who are helping us ensure that the kids don’t drop out again, and so many other people who have come forward to help us in unimaginable ways – right from calling us up to hand over the money from their monthly raddi sale at home, to helping us organize raddi collection drives, to hand-holding us through regulatory, technological and strategic issues.
(For more colorful details, you will have to check out the “Events and Updates” and “We Thank” pages on our website www.urjayati.org)

Thanks to all the donors, we have been able to raise enough funds to support these 10 kids till the end of this academic year, and take on a few more. We are in the process of profiling other kids in need of help, and hopefully by the time we send our next update email to all of you, we will be able to put an exact number, faces and stories on our “Know the Children” page on the website.

Soon after we went live, our initiative and concept caught the attention of DNA newspaper in Mumbai and NDTV 24×7 (you can find the links to the article and the video feature in our email signature). And then something totally unexpected happened.

Close on the heels of the NDTV coverage of Urjayati, the very slum where the story was shot – and where 8 of our current kids live – burnt down to the ground due to a fire.
The same reporter who covered the Urjayati story went back to the slum to cover the fire. And she was the first of a line of people who extended a helping hand to the Urjayati kids and their families, by updating us about the situation on the ground and where the families could go to get access to emergency resources.

We ran to the site that night with immediate sustenance that the families said they needed – like blankets and dry food. From the next day, we were overwhelmed by the gesture of the mentors. While the three of us had to leave for rural Rajasthan for work, the mentors visited ‘their families’ in the slum with food, water, medicines, shoes, clothes, bags, utensils, storage boxes etc. – all of their own accord – to help the Urjayati families get back up on their feet. We cannot thank the mentors enough for this.

For over a month, the people of the slum lived with makeshift houses made with plastic and saris to shield themselves against cold winds. We met with the local corporator – a very genuine lady – to understand the rehabilitation process. We couldn’t expect the kids to go back to school without a roof over their heads. Very recently though, the local government handed out a very practical compensation package to cover the damages. Within three weeks of the fire, the Urjayati kids started going back to school. And now houses are being rebuilt and life is getting back to normal.

We utilized 3% of all your donations to provide immediate relief to the Urjayati families on the night of the fire. So if you donated Rs 1000, Rs 30 from your donation was used to ensure the kids and their families don’t freeze to death on the elevated terrain where their houses once stood.

4% of the donations have been used to cover operational costs. We try to cover as much of our operational costs from the raddi collection drives as we can, because we know that donors who personally donate feel much better about their money being used directly for the child’s education than for our pamphlet printing and tech support expenses. But then again, even something like marketing pamphlets for organizing the raddi sale from where we can recover our operational expenses costs money, hence the nominal 4% from the personal donations. We spend frugally. 🙂

Hope this email helps to answer a lot of the ‘what’s up with Urjayati’ questions we have been getting. Every couple of months we will touch base with all of you via a newsletter like this.

Do write back to us if you have any queries or thoughts.